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Bishop grieves for slain Church and rights worker

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza expressed grief at the brutal murder of church worker and human rights defender Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City Monday night, August 17, calling the victim his “dear little child of struggle.”

“I bleed of this never-ending injustice and violence, someone closest in my work with the oppressed is murdered. I just cannot believe this continuing madness of senseless killings!” Alminaza said in a statement.

“These systemic killings of human rights defenders and activists must be condemned and must stop! Our responsible agencies must pursue justice and accountability on those responsible and should never allow impunity of criminals doing senseless executions of Filipinos!” the Bishop cried.

Alvarez, a victim of terrorist-tagging by the Rodrigo Duterte government, was shot to death while on her way home. She was 39 years old and survived by an 11-year old daughter.

Alminaza said the victim was tagged as a terrorist in a case filed before the Department of Justice in 2018. Her name was eventually deleted from the list but she continued to receive death threats from suspected state forces.

The prelate said the threats has resulted in Alvarez’s violent death “widely deemed as another case of extrajudicial killing, in pursuance of the state’s anti-terrorism campaign.”

“Zara is a human rights champion in the Negros island, an activist, organizer and ecumenical church worker. Her active involvement in the Church People -Workers Solidarity is worthy of emulation – always reminding us to be prophetic in our work of evangelization and social justice,” Alminaza described the victim.

A very personal tribute

In his statement, the Bishop recalled the victim’s “brave words” in an interview by UCANEWS in 2019, saying that because of her work of pursuing justice for the victims of human rights violations, “receiving death threats has already become one small part of [their] work…”

“Just last night, Zara Alvarez took the bullets from her assassin. Those who wanted to silence a woman of dedicated service for the poor, yes, they murdered her,” he said.

The Bishop further wrote:

“Zara, they imprisoned you of fabricated charges; yet, you were declared innocent by the court.

“Zara, they are afraid of you; though a petite woman yet capable of condemning injustice and ever-ready to organize farmers, peasants, workers, jeepney drivers and even church people.

“Zara, they took your life, believing that they can silence the cause you are fighting for… But no, Zara, your martyrdom in the cause for justice will inspire us to advance the cry for justice – the cry of the oppressed.

“Zara, you are a courageous witness in the cause for social justice.

“As you said: I cannot leave everything behind while everyone I know is being killed…’”

The Bishop, who last year ordered the nightly ringing of all church bells in his diocese and issuing an oratio imperata to call for an end to the killings of farmers and activists in Negros Island, also said he is grateful for having known the victim.

“I thank the Lord for knowing you, Zara, my dear little child of struggle. I promise to ever continue our work in the service of God’s poor. You inspired me in many ways to be a pastor of the anawim of God’s kingdom,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

European activists condemn Duterte government for Echanis’ murder

By Macel Ingles

OSLO, Norway—A Norwegian peace advocate and International Committee member of the Red Party in Norway said the slay of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)  consultant to the peace talks has eroded the international community´s trust in President Rodrigo Duterte’s role to achieve peace.

“Duterte´s time is vanishing. His credibility to be part and address political solutions over the big conflict in the Philippines has crumbled,” Arnljøt Ask of Norway’s Red Party said in an online protest rally and tribute to the late peasant leader and social activist Randall Echanis last Sunday, August 10.

“I can see that the fascist Duterte regime gave priority to murder this man instead of taking him to prison like Marcos and other presidents we encountered to earlier, This consistent, honest and persuading, social activist, peasant leader and peace advocate gathered support in broad circles, a killer like Duterte could not put up with that, he therefore hoped to silence him,” Ask added.

Ask revealed he only met Echanis once at a peace talk meeting in Oslo but he said he remembered his “friendly” and “determined” face.

Arnljøt Ask of Norway’s Red Party

Norway serves as the third party facilitator to the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP,

Most of the formal rounds of peace negotiations were held in Oslo.

Ask, a founding member of the Filipino Resource Center in this city, joined other fellow Philippine solidarity activists in paying tribute to Echanis and condemning his murder under the Duterte regime.

“For the solidarity movement in Norway, Ka Randall´s passing away through this terrorist act will enforce our strength, will force our efforts to strengthen our work to contribute to the fulfillment of the task Ka Randall dedicated his life to, so also supporters of justice and real democracy will act all over,” Ask added.

Aside from Ask, other international solidarity leaders attended the online event including Dutch youth activist Tom de Koning of the Revolutionaire Enheid in the Netherlands who sent his condolences to Echanis´comrades and family in the Philippines and paid tribute to his contribution to the people´s struggle.

“With comrade Randy in our hearts and minds, we will remember his genuine commitment to the Filipino people, the revolution and his special contribution to the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. We will remember Ka Randy like so many other comrades who had been in prison several times and he was never afraid to make the sacrifices in order to defend the people,s democratic revolution,” Koning told fellow activists and peace advocates in the online protest.

Italian activist Alessio Arena of the Fronte Populare and the International League of People´s Struggle (ILPS) in Italy also condemned Echanis´ killing.

“I would like to join in condemning the barbaric murder of comrade Randy Echanis and to offer my condolences to his family, comrades and friends. The murder of Ka Randy extends the blood trail drawn in recent months by the massacre of leaders and representatives of the mass movement in Philippines. The blood of Ka Randy and other martyrs/victims fall on the criminal Duterte regime and the imperialists of which it is a servant to,” Arena said in the online tribute.

Arena met Echanis at the peace talks meetings held in Rome where he came to hear him speak about his work on genuine agrarian reform issues and mass work in the Philippines.

From Luxembourg, Julie Smit of the People´s Coalition for Food Security exhorted solidarity organizations and comrades in Europe to support the Filipino people in their struggle for peace and justice in the Philippines.

“We need to turn outrage, this grief we have, into action. It is all we can do to continue the work of Ka Randy, to continue to fight, to support the Filipino people and to fight for justice so that we can arrive at the rainbow´s end,” Smits said.

“These people who have given their lives, they earn our deepest respect. I think it is our responsibility who are living to continue doing what we can to expose, the violent repression that is pretty escalating now under the Duterte administration,” she added.

Smits worked for 20 years in the Philippines for a Luxembourg NGO working on peasant issues and joined the solidarity movement for the Philippines after her stint in the country.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and interim head of the NDFP Negotiating Panel Julie De Lima also sent a video message in the online tribute condemning Echanis killing and vowing to obtain justice for his death.

Besides messages of condolences and support from the international solidarity organizations from various countries in Europe, the online protest was also joined by several Filipino organizations and peace advocates including messages from Zaria Galiano of International Migrant Alliance (IMA), trade unions and human rights activist from the UK, Rommel Abellar, Filipino scholar in Universite Catholique Louvain, Phoebe Zoe Maria Sanchez, Seyra Rico of AnakBayan Europe, Migrante Europe, Ugnayang ng mga Pilipino sa Belgium (UPB), and the Filipino Resource Center (FRC) in Norway.

The online tribute also featured videos of the late peace advocate´s life and struggle with the Filipino peasant organizations and his role in the peace advocacy in Europe as senior consultant to the NDFP´s Negotiating Panel in the peace talks.

His favorite song, Moon River, as revealed by his wife Linda Lacaba, was also played in the tribute with not a few tears shed in his memory by those who attended the event.

The participants also lit candles and observed two minutes of silence to honor Echanis. #

Randall Echanis: Funny guy who was serious at the negotiating table

The many facets of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randall Echanis surfaced in the various tributes paid him since his gruesome murder a week ago today. Incongruous with his brutal death, the tributes pictured a tender and humorous person not beyond cracking jokes at this own expense or finding himself in funny situations. He was also a writer of some of the revolutionary Left’s most beloved poems and songs, even indulging comrades with the occasional singing and performances.

Detained three times and heavily tortured by three regimes in the past five decades, a stranger would be forgiven to assume that “Ka Randy” was a humorless person. But he definitely was not.

“Randall had a refreshing wry humor and was funny even without trying,” NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia wrote on his first tribute to his long-time colleague in the peace negotiations with various administrations. Olalia recalled an episode in 2011 that Randall had to hold it long enough at the Utrecht train station because he had no Euro coins to pay to use the Wash Closet.

“I fondly recall how ‘brothers’ Fidel (Agcaoili, recently departed NDFP chief negotiator) and Randall engaged in unceasing juvenile banter and comradely taunts during idle moments or breaks in intense negotiations and serious consultations,” Olalia said. “And we had our own naughty private jokes and codes. And he can be gullible and childlike I tell you. But he is sharp and firm as could be. Simpleng tao pero matalim magsuri,” he added. (A simple person but sharp in his analysis.)

Ka Randy’s funny episodes continued up to the last formal talks he attended in Europe, this time with the Rodrigo Duterte government in January 2017.

Lawyer Kristina Conti recalled: “Isang araw, may break sa pagitan ng mga miting at dinner. May mga naka-tropa ako, nag-aya gumala, para ma-refresh daw ang utak. Kasi may miting ulit sa gabi. Nagkayayaan tingnan yung sunset, ‘dun sa may beach. Para makarating ‘dun kelangan dumaan sa isang hotel. ‘Sosyal naman dito,’ sabi ni Ka Randall. ‘Mag-picture muna tayo. Hehehe.’ Hala sila, sige pose-pose, ganda nga naman ng lighting. ‘Tapos batsi na, di tayo bagay dito,’ he said” Conti wrote.

Ka Randy having his photo taken at a hotel lobby during a break in the peace negotiations (Photo from Atty Kristina Conti)

[“One day, during a break between meetings and dinner, my companions proposed a walk to freshen their tired minds. There would be more meetings that night. The wanted to watch the sunset at the nearby beach. Along the way was a hotel. ‘It looks expensive here,’ Ka Randall said. ‘Let us have our pictures taken.’ Then he posed, and the lighting was good. ‘It’s time to leave. We don’t belong here,’ he said.”]

Ka Randy earned some ribbing from his colleagues one time when someone used a lighter hair dye on the silver-haired negotiator. “Kapag may chance iyan siya, nagpapa-tina ng buhok kasi marami na siyang puting buhok. Minsan, bago mag peace talks, nagpakulay siya ng buhok. Kulay brown ang lumabas,” Maureen Hermitanio recalled.

[If he had the chance, he had his hair dyed, as he has lots of white hair already. One time, it turned out brown.]

Echanis seemed to be a different person on the negotiating table, however, his NDFP Reciprocal Working Group on Social and Economic Reforms colleagues said. “Ka Randy was a funny guy, cracking jokes with poker face, which made his jokes even funnier. But he never joked around the formal negotiations, even if we knew it could have thawed some tensions. When asked why he was so serious at the peace table, he would simply say that peasants have sacrificed even their lives for the attainment of genuine agrarian reform. ‘It’s not a joke,’ he said,” Rosabella Guzman, resource person to the peace negotiations, wrote.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said Echanis played a key role in the drafting of documents on agrarian reform and rural development, one that will be a basis of a future Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Reforms between the Left and the government. “He was outstanding as an advocate of genuine land reform, rural development and national industrialization. He was the National Chairperson of the Anakpawis Party List and Deputy Secretary General of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and was a leading consultant of the NDFP on agrarian reform and member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison wrote.

Poet, songwriter

Not much known to younger activists was the fact the Echanis was himself a poet and songwriter.

During his third imprisonment under the Gloria Arroyo regime, Echanis wrote the poem “Hindi Ko Kayo Titigilan” inside the Manila City in December 2008. He was released in 2010 and have since participated in the first and only formal talks with the Benigno Aquino administration in January 2011.

He also participated in formal negotiations in Europe and in the Philippines between 2016 and 2018.

In one of the tributes to Echanis, cultural worker Edgie Uyanguren rendered the song “Sa Paglayo Ay May Paglalapit Din,” a song co-wrote by Echanis with Ramon Ayco. Written in Cagayan Valley in 1979, the song was beloved by revolutionaries and activists alike.

In a gathering after the first formal talks between the NDFP and the Duterte government in 2016, Echanis performed an Ilokano revolutionary songs with fellow peace consultants from Northern Philippines, Kennedy Bangibang and Randy Malayao. Malayao himself was assassinated in January 2019.

Randall Echanis singing with fellow NDFP peace consultants from Northern Luzon.

‘Positive, calm and objective’

Echanis is most intimately remembered by younger agrarian reform activists as a positive and objective leader, a calming presence in the face of adversity.

Amihan Euza Mabalay recalled that Ka Randy was always encouraging to them as student land reform activists. “Laging constructive ang mga komento niya. Kahit ang UP Manila ang pinaka kaunting bilang ng miyembro, hindi ako napanghinaan ng loob nilang chair ng chapter dahil sa mga salita niya,” she wrote upon learning of Echanis’ death. Mabalay was National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth) University of the Philippines-Manila Chapter chairperson in her student days.

[His comments were always constructive. Even if the UP Manila chapter had the least number of members, I was never discouraged as chapter leader because of his encouraging words.]

She recalled further a t-shirt printing project they did in her senior year. “’Ang ganda! Pulang-pula ano, Amihan?’” Hindi naman sobrang ganda ng t-shirt na ‘yun pero ramdam namin na may pumuri sa pinagpaguran namin, hindi lang sa t-shirt kundi sa pag-oorganisa sa mga kapwa namin estudyante para sa buong taon o higit pa. Ilang beses nya din yun inulit-ulit kapag nagkikita kami habang nasa NRY pa ako,” she said.

[‘It’s beautiful! It’s very red, right Amihan?’ The t-shirt was not exceptional, in fact. But I felt that someone appreciated our efforts, not just in the production of the shirts but in our organizing of fellow students that entire year and beyond. He repeated the compliment when we saw each other while I was still with NNARA-Youth.]

Mabalay said Echanis was always appreciative of every initiative, effort and sacrifice, both to students and veteran activists like himself. He was never one to let anger get the better of him, even during heated discussions. She added that she liked when Echanis was present in meetings as the good points were duly appreciated and weaknesses were pointed out.

“He gave everyone a chance, based on the principles of serving the people. That’s why I called him Tatang (father),” she said in Filipino.

Echanis was buried at noontime today at the Loyola Memorial Gardens in Marikina City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

REVOLUTION

(For Randall Echanis)

by Lou Gartha Kho-Mawis

After that slow fear

crawling over our spirits

The rage takes over

Quick

Shooting like lightning

Charring the apathy of day

The helplessness of night

Then elightenment

We wriggle

Free from our chains

On tiptoe

we reach for the dreams

We thought were behind us

The gap that we must bridge

is worth our final breath

Our dreams conceive

a world without borders

Hands without chains

In the darkness

we have already died

Struggle is

Our resurrection

NDFP peace consultant Randall Echanis murdered

Randall Echanis, long-time National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant, was killed early Monday morning, August 10, in Novaliches, Quezon City.

His peasant organization colleagues said Echanis’ murder may be by state forces.

He was killed with a still unidentified neighbor, Anakpawis Party also reported.

Echanis died of multiple stab wounds on his back based on an early police report, his colleagues told Kodao. His remains will be autopsied, they added.

Former Anakpawis Congressman Ariel Casilao said that Echanis “was undergoing medical treatment, and was unarmed, when suspected state forces raided his house.”

Echanis actively participated in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since 2002 and served as vice-chairperson of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

He was NDFP’s leading consultant on agrarian reform and played a key role in the drafting of documents on agrarian reform and rural development and the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Reforms.

The victim, 72 years old, was also the incumbent deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

As peasant leader, Echanis spearheaded nationwide campaigns for genuine agrarian reform, including free land distribution to Filipino farmers. He was instrumental in crafting the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) repeatedly filed in Congress since its first filing in 2007.

A former political detainee, Echanis was arrested three times during the Marcos, Aquino, and Arroyo regimes. He became Anakpawis Party’s third nominee after his latest release from jail in 2010.

Randall Echanis (left) with fellow NDFP peace consultant Vicente Ladlad (partly hidden), NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon (center) and former NDFP resource person for political and constitutional reforms and now Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Damagoso (right). [Photo by Jon Bustamante/Kodao]

Swift condemnation

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned the murders, saying Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año may know about the killings.

“It is widely known that the DILG secretary Año has been boasting to his staff and other people that he has mapped out the locations of all social activists through the local governments and neighborhoods and that he can wipe them out the social activists anytime,” Sison said.

“This boasting of Año is taken seriously by all the social activists that he threatens to kill,” he added.

Sison said Echanis’ murder will have far reaching consequences as it arouses the indignation and just wrath of the peasant masses and the entire Filipino people.

“All social activists have no choice but to intensify in every necessary way their struggle against the tyrant, traitor, butcher and plunderer Duterte,” he said.

NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia for his part said “ruthless dark forces have struck again” with Echanis’ murder.

“Are we totally and almost irretrievably shutting the doors and windows of a potential peaceful resolution of the perennial ills of society by sowing terror and trepidation among those who present alternative solutions? Where will the people go thence for their legal struggles if they are not welcome?” Olalia asked.

Echanis is the third NDFP peace consultant killed after President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled peace negotiations in June 2017.

Felix Randy Malayao, NDFP peace consultant for Cagayan Valley, was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya in January 2019.

Julius Giron, designated as National Consultant Number 1 due to his seniority in the Communist Party of the Philippines, was also brutally killed in a combined police and military raid in Baguio City last March 13.

Giron was the holder of a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees Document of Identification (DI) number 978410 under the name of Arnold Cruz.

All three were killed in the early hours of the morning.

They also were born and raised in Northern Luzon: Echanis in the Ilocos Region, Malayao in Cagayan Valley and Giron in the Cordilerras.

“How bad can it get? It is almost conclusory that the ruthless dark forces have struck again. How then can we encourage people to openly and effectively engage in legitimate causes and advocacies for social and economic reforms if you treacherously silence them?” Olalia further asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mendiola ng buhay natin

Ni Prop. Rolando Tolentino, PhD

Unang sinulat ng may-akda ang piyesang ito noong Enero 2008. Kahapon, Enero 22, ginunita ang ika-33 anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre. Wala pa ring katarungan para sa mga biktima ng krimen.

Malalaki ang bilang na dumadalo ng mga rali noon. Libo-libo, madalas umaabot din ng daan-daang libo. Kasagsagan pa ng People Power I, at kahit pa marami nang nanamlay sa kilusan at bumalik sa gawi ng gitnang uring pagnanasa, mas marami ang nanatili sa hanay.

Nasa kilusang kabataan at estudyante ako noong 1987, kasama ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Sa panahong ito, pinapalawak ang pambansang kasapian. Binubuhay ang mga rehiyon at eskwelahang nawalan ng ugnay sa organisasyon. Pinapaigting rin ang ugnay sa iba pang organisasyong pangkabataan at iba pang sektor.

Malaki ang bulto ng nagrali. Ang daming magsasakang nangunguna sa rali, galing sa iba’t ibang lugar ng Luzon. Karamihan, nakatsinelas lang. Umabot ang rali hanggang sa sandaan ng Claro M. Recto at J.P. Rizal. Ito ang paanan ng tulay ng Mendiola, at ang maiikling kalsada ng Mendiola.

Nasa harap kami ng U.E., at ito na nga ang kahiya-hiyang unibersidad na ang harapan ay ginawang sine at mall. Walang dangal na ang pangunahing harap ng unibersidad na kilala sa disenyong art deco ay biglang naging mall. May Jollibee sa bukana rin ng kampus.

Bigla na lang may putukan sa harapan. Ang kalakhan ng nasa rali ay nagsipagdapaan sa kalsada. Nagtaka ako, nakisigaw ng “Makibaka, huwag matakot.” At ilang mabilis na sandali pa ay nagkakandakumahog ang mga tao sa pagtakbo paatras. Naririnig kong nagpapatuloy ang putukan. Sunod-sunod, parang armalite. Malakas at nakakapangilabot na ang amoy ng kumakalat na tear gas. Ang daming ginamit ng militar para umamoy hanggang sa tinatakbuhan naming sa Recto. Tumungo kami sa gilid ng kalsada sa aming pagtakbo. Sa Recto kasi, maliban sa unang palapag, ang ibang palapag ay nakalabas sa sidewalk. Inisip kong mas ligtas ito kaysa tumakbo sa mismong kalsada.

Kumaliwa kami ng karipas sa Morayta tapos ay sa isang institute sa kabila ng Quezon Boulevard. Doon nagtipon ang mga dinisperse sa rali. Nagkaroon ng komand na tumungo sa Liwasang Bonifacio. Hindi pa malinaw na marami na palang namatay at nangasugatan sa paanan ng Mendiola.

Larawan sa paggunita sa ika-33 na anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre kahapon, Enero 22.

Sa Liwasang Bonifacio, nagsimula rin ang programa. Kabado ang marami pero nagpatuloy pa rin ang nagsasalita sa ibabaw ng jeep. Biglang may pulutong ng militar na sumunod sa Mendiola. Patuloy pa rin ang pagbatikos sa dispersal ng nagsasalita. Nagsimula muli ang putukan. Hanggang dito ba naman ay sistematikong dini-disperse ang rali. Tumakbo kami sa likod ng Post Office, umabot sa likod ng National Press Club.

Mangilan-ngilan na lang kami at natagpuan namin ang aming sarili na nasa ibabaw ng nakadaong na barge sa Pasig River. Mahapdi na ang mga mata namin dahil sa dami ng tear gas na pinasabog para matiyak ang pangalawang dispersal. May nakaisip na sumalok ng tubig sa ilog at gamitin ito para basain ang panyo at ipantapal sa mata. Naisip kong hindi nga kami mamamatay sa putok ng baril, mamamatay naman kami sa tetano dahil sa dumi ng tubig. Pero ito o lalo pang humapdi ang mga mata.

Sumakay akong papunta ng Faura at doon ay sumakay ng jeep pauwi sa Mandaluyong. May komand na huwag matulog sa sariling bahay, bilang pag-iingat sa hindi natatanyang pangyayari. Nakitulog ako sa kaibigan sa Makati. Tinatawid ng bangka ang bahaging ito ng Pasig River para makarating sa bahay ng kaibigan ko.

Mainit ang sabaw ng nilagang buto-buto. At totoo namang sabaw na lang ang naging ulam ko dahil biglaan ang aking pagdating. Ikinuwento ko ang pangyayari sa kaibigan kong manunulat at siya man ay may balita batay sa nasagap niya sa radyo at telebisyon. Nakinig din kami ng radyo bago ako natulog sa sala.

Dalawang beses pang mauulit ang mahabang araw na may kinalaman sa Mendiola. Una ay ang libing ni Rolando Olalia mga anim na buwan pa lamang matapos ng matagumpay na People Power. Mula sa U.P. Chapel at bago ilibing sa sementeryo sa Mandaluyong, idinaan ang bangkay ni Olalia at ng kasamang pinaslang nito sa Mendiola. Ikalawa ay ilang buwan lamang matapos ng tinawag na Mendiola Massacre, inilibing naman ang pinaslang na lider estudyante na si Lean Alejandro. Mula U.P. Chapel, nagmartsa ang daan-daang libo sa Mendiola bago ihatid sa Malabon.

Ang Mendiola ay dambana ng kontemporaryong pakikibaka ng mamamayan. Dito sa kanyang paanan, namumulat ang daan-daang libong nakikibahagi sa kolektibong karanasan sa kilusang pakikibaka. Dito sila inaalay, namumulat, idinadaan bago ilibing, nagiging martir at anak ng bayan. Dito sinisingil ang tampok na simbolo ng estado. Ang maikling daan ng Mendiola—sa pagitan ng magkabilang dulo ng Malakanyang at sambayanan—ay ang saksi sa digmaang-estado. #

Farmers accuse Aranetas of grabbing farms and home lots in Bulacan

A farmers’s group accused a bank of fencing off land in Sitio San Isidro in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, adding the bank is acting in behalf of the “landgrabbing” Araneta family.

The Samahan at Sandigan ng mga  Magsasaka sa San Isidro-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Sasamag-KMP) said the Manila Banking Corp. ordered the fencing off of lots and started constructing one-meter high posts surrounding the perimeter of Blocks 9, 10, 11,12 and 13B in Sitio Isidro.

Sasamag-KMP said surveyors and engineers from AB Surveying and Development Corp. arrived last August 29 and claimed the farm lots planted with vegetables, root crops and food crops where houses are also located.

The surveyors misled barangay officials and presented a letter that said they would only conduct a “survey of the area,” the group said.

“The farmers were surprised to see heavy equipment and construction materials such as hollow blocks, steel and cement bags being hauled near their farms. The fencing and construction activities have instantly sent the farmers into a panic,” Sasamag-KMP said,

The group also said that soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army encamped nearby only looked on as farmers tried to stop the surveying company from fencing off farms and home lots .

“The soldiers are not in our community to protect the people. They are here to protect the interests of land grabbers and private companies with businesses in San Jose Del Monte City,” Eriberto Peña of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan said in a statement.

Peña said the soldiers have been encamping near the community’s barangays hall since 2018 and conducting surveillance activities masked as “Community Support Program Operations.”

The farmers said Barangay Tungkong Mangga in SJDM is the targeted location of the intermodal depot and last station of the multibillion MRT-7—a big-ticket construction project supported by the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

The MRT-7 and commercial components will cut through 103.48 hectares of the farming communities of Sitio San Isidro and Sitio Ricafort in Tungkong Mangga. More than a thousand farmers and their families will be affected by the project, the KMP said.

Large real estate companies have already put up subdivisions and township projects in San Jose Del Monte City in anticipation of the completion of the MRT-7 project. 

In addition to the Araneta group, Ayala Land Inc. has also expanded its Php7-billion Altaraza Town Center project to include Amaia Altaraza Steps, a medium-rise condominium project.

Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club, a joint-venture partnership with Sta. Lucia Real Estate and Development, already covers 261 hectares of land in Tungkong Mangga, KMP added.

The group said the Araneta family covets a total of 3,500 hectares of land in San Jose Del Monte City that includes portions of the nearby Pangarap village in Caloocan City-North. 

“These real estate projects are affecting the farmers in the sub-village of San Isidro in Tungkong Mangga. There are frequent instances wherein crops planted by farmers are being bulldozed by surveying companies and private security guards employed by real estate companies. The security personnel also prohibit farmers from planting and harvesting their crops,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers press for justice 32 years after Mendiola Massacre

On the 32nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre where 12 peasants were killed and at least 51 were injured, farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas held a protest action at the site of the incident to press for justice.

Noting that the victims still have to receive justice, the protesters also noted that landlessness among poor peasants is still one of the country’s worst form of social injustice.

Farmer-leaders urged their members to continue demanding for justice. (Video by Jomaline Mamangun)

Groups launch “Justice for Sagay Massacre” campaign

A network calling for justice for Sagay massacre victims was formed in Quezon City Wednesday (December 5) nearly two months after the incident.

Various groups led by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and the National Federation of Sugar Workers spearheaded the network that also include Karapatan, Promotion of Church for Peoples Response, Gabriela Womens Party and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

The network is part of the peasant sector’s #StopKillingFarmers campaign that calls for an independent investigation on the massacre.

Nine farm workers and land reform advocates were killed in Sagay City last October 20 when attacked by suspected members of the local Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA) armed group under the control and direction of local politicians.

The victims were conducting a farm tilling activity when attacked.

The network said it will disseminate results of impartial inquiries and fact-finding missions.

Local and international education campaigns on the plight of sugar workers in Hacienda Nene and other victims of peasant killings in Negros Island and other parts of the country shall also be disseminated, the network said. # (Joseph Cuevas)

NDFP-Negros identifies Sagay massacre gunmen

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Negros Island identified four suspects in the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City last October 20.

In a statement, NDFP-Negros spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the killers behind the massacre were Vito Lotrago, Eduardo Linugon, Rexi Robles and a certain Rako, former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) and active members of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA).

Fernandez said the Roselyn Pelle Command of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Northern Negros Front conducted an exhaustive investigation into the incident and identified the four as the perpetrators.

The NDFP official said the gunmen are under the employ of local politicians, such as the Marañons, specifically Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Jr. and Sagay City mayor Alfredo III.

“It is common knowledge that for decades the Marañon family and their kin (the Tolentinos, Sumbincos, Lumaynos, Zarosas, Javelosas, Jaojocos and Cuevas) have maintained and expanded their land holdings in Sagay City and neighboring towns and cities using violence and brutality by conniving with the AFP/PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police) and employing armed mercenaries like the RPA and SCAA,” Fernandez said.

“I know for a fact that, for the right price, P2,000 or thereabouts, SCAA elements are willing to kill anyone,” he added.

Fernandez, a former priest, is a long-time leader of the revolutionary groups in the island.

Fernandez said the elder Marañon is the “kingpin of big despotic landlords in the province” who colludes with the AFP [and] PNP and other government agencies to downplay the Sagay massacre.

“Marañon continues his vain attempts to divert the public from the real issues of land monopoly, tyranny and exploitation,” he said.

The Marañons and the PNP have yet to reply to Fernandez’s statement.

Earlier, the local police filed multiple murder charges against two National Federation of Sugar Workers officials, alleging Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo recruited the victims into their organization and later killed them as part of the destabilization plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Fernandez said the police “script” stinks of deceit and ill motives that is “evidently demented.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)